Yesterday’s article talked about creating strategic impact through breaking a business and recreating it as something new and better. I’ve been reworking various Brainzooming strategic thinking questions to make them better suited for identifying and exploring concepts for breaking a business.

9 Strategic Thinking Questions for Breaking a Business

Here’s a working list of the first nine refashioned strategic thinking questions.

  1. How would an incredibly successful company with a very different business model rework our business into something new?
  2. How can we go shopping with our customers on a daily basis to gain breakthrough product ideas?
  3. What do we have to do to increase our number of employee-generated ideas by 100x?
  4. If we listed everything we think is essential to our business, what would be the first 50 percent of items we would cut from the list to remake our organization?
  5. If we cut the number of product/service options, variations, and alternatives we offer customers, what else would we do to improve the value we deliver to them?
  6. What has our industry known about and ignored for years that could deliver incredible value to customers that no one has every pursued?
  7. If our brand is trying to catch the #1 in our industry, what can we do completely differently instead of simply following the leader once again?
  8. How can we boost our speed, expertise, and strategic thinking by an order of magnitude to disrupt our industry?
  9. How could we turn the most complicated processes in our customer experience into one-step processes that are dramatically easier for clients?

The first couple of questions focus on generating many more insights; three through seven address strategic options; eight and nine push for creating strategic impact via increased speed and simplification.

Which of these strategic thinking questions would you tackle first?

I’m leaning toward 1, 4, 5, and 9 as our initial strategic thinking questions to think about breaking our business and turning it into something new.

Which questions get you thinking about breaking your business? – Mike Brown

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At a creating strategic impact workshop, one attendee talked about breaking the business he runs and putting it back together in a new, different, and improved way.

Shortly afterward, I was on a conference call with an entrepreneurial business owner who mentioned reserving one day weekly exclusively for working on his business since he expects to be his own best client.

These two statements, one about breaking the business and the other about taking the time to do it, have been top of mind for me ever since.

Breaking the Business


As with a lot of entrepreneurial companies, I suspect, we don’t spend nearly enough time doing for The Brainzooming Group what we do for our clients, i.e., imagining the future in new and innovative ways and detailing what it will take to make it reality.

There never seems to be the extra time, the right composition of people, or the mental distance to lead ourselves through the strategic thinking exercises and explorations we routinely facilitate for clients.

The result is our business changes have been too incremental, and frequently, not at the best times. We have been successful on some very important measures, but have not taken the business as far as we would have hoped and expected. We are very good in some processes to grow and develop the business and woefully behind in others.  As I mentioned to Stephen Lahey recently, we’re overly deliberate on developing “how” we do things and way too random on “what we do” and “how we build the business. “

For example, new blog posts, strategic thinking workshops, and client strategic planning sessions always happen when they are supposed to happen. New downloads, email campaigns, and business initiatives to build The Brainzooming Group do not.

Creating Strategic Impact for Ourselves

While working on new strategic thinking exercises and questions for a blog the other night, the idea struck me: Why don’t we try to break The Brainzooming Group into something new and improved, and write about that instead?

I haven’t completely decided that’s the next best thing to do, but it certainly feels as if it is. It simply seems like it’s time to impose the same discipline on ourselves that we bring to our clients to help them in creating strategic impact.

But since this blog is for all of you, I have to ask, is that firsthand story of breaking the business something you’d want to read about here?

Let me know what you think. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation success.

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Between working with smart consultants at A.T. Kearney and spending time at the Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership on multiple occasions, I became immersed in the concept of “high performing customers.”

As shared in a previous post, I obviously had some notion of making others “high performing” early in life. These later influences, however, provided a way to envision and define the concept more formally. You can think about creating high performing customers as anticipating what people taking part in a process might need to learn, know, or do, as well as how they need to adapt and behave so the process owner can deliver the greatest value.

Think about the vocabulary and process Starbucks uses to keeps its lines moving as smoothly as possible; that’s what we’re talking about with this concept.

7 Questions for Creating High Performing Customers

High performing customers have been at the forefront of my thinking while developing a new stream of Creating Strategic Impact content for a client workshop. While the workshop is rooted in strategic thinking, the focus is heavy on how to adapt a strategic planning process so the Marketing team can better facilitate annual planning.


If you have responsibility for designing, developing, or improving a process (especially related to strategic planning), here are seven questions to explore before you begin your task:

  1. What do participants know right now, and what do we need them to know?
  2. What strengths do they already have that will boost their success?
  3. How can we compensate for their weaknesses by changing the process or bringing other resources to them?
  4. How should the process be designed to keep them engaged (mentally, emotionally, socially, physically, etc.) as long as needed?
  5. Are the participants pretty much the same, or do some of them have materially greater or lesser likelihoods of success?
  6. In what ways can we involve participants with the highest likelihood of success to shape and/or help carry out the process for others?
  7. In what ways will other processes they are involved with affect their success?

The answers to these questions are tremendously helpful in thinking about processes from a user’s perspective to help design something that sets them up for success.

How We Apply these Questions to Strategic Planning Process Design

When I tell people we design planning processes to suit a client’s situation, as opposed to introducing a standard process, they must wonder what that means exactly.

Our strategic view is it’s easier to change what we do to help participants perform as needed, than deal with the frustration and challenges of putting them through a strategic planning process that is ideal for us, but doesn’t work for them. This distinction is at the heart of how we approach strategic planning.

If you’re up for it, let’s talk about what this concept might mean for planning at your organization. – Mike Brown

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Creative-ContentI’ve been in Boston most of the week where I led off the Frost and Sullivan Marketing World event for the second year in a row with a half-day social media and content marketing workshop.

This year’s workshop was an interactive session centered on adopting a TV network’s perspective to help a brand better develop a social media strategy to deliver engaging, audience-oriented content. The participating brands included IBM, Wells Fargo, McKesson, USAA, and The Hartford.

One content marketing tool we addressed was our approach to using offline models to help people not immersed in social media strategy to better understand how to approach using them successfully. We’ve learned, however, that no matter how deep someone is in social media, these models are beneficial to help think about appropriate content and practices for brands.

That’s why I returned to that workshop exercise after the session when one of the attendees about her trepidation and frustrations with Twitter. Her sentiment is interesting given she is on the forefront of using and teaching social media within her organization.

14 Networking Tips that Work on Twitter, Too

To help her and other individuals (and brands) who struggle with Twitter get started, here’s a list of fourteen Twitter tips to get the most out of in-person networking events I compiled based on a number of online articles.

Read through the list, however, with an eye toward Twitter. You should quickly notice each of the suggestions applies directly to using Twitter more effectively.

  1. Perform some research before you show up.
  2.  Plan on making solid connections with just a few people each time
  3. Don’t pounce on someone and hang on them for dear life.
  4. Don’t just stick with the people you know; mill around and meet some new people.
  5. Get near the food since everybody has to pass by the food.
  6. Have a standard introduction in mind that you can use or adapt to fit the situation.
  7. Be the first to introduce yourself, and time it well to get someone else’s attention.
  8. Bring a friend and perhaps introduce one another to the people one or the other of you knows.
  9. Do more listening and less talking.
  10. Keep the conversation short and pithy.
  11. Don’t talk exclusively about business or you will be a bore.
  12. Don’t try to juggle too much stuff in your hands while you are networking; you don’t want to be distracted.
  13. Have current business information available that others can refer to after you disengage.
  14. Close the conversation before you hit that “weird silence” that says you’ve overstayed your welcome.

Granted, there are a couple of specifics you’ll want to introduce to completely Twitterfy the list:

For number 5, the “food” you’ll want to stand next to includes Twitter chats and conversations involving popular Twitter hashtags.
With number 12, the “stuff” is tweeting the same link to multiple people to get them to go to your website or steering every Twitter conversation to what you’re selling.
Finally, the current contact information is what’s contained in your Twitter profile.

These fourteen Twitter tips aren’t EVERYTHING you need to know to be more successful in using Twitter for business, but if you concentrate on these fourteen, you’re most of the way there, and will be better than MANY great offline brands that still aren’t getting how to translate their brand to the online world. - Mike Brown

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This really is a creative thinking lesson years in the making, and it couldn’t have happened any faster.

A Creative Thinking Lesson Years in the Making

tabletopFifteen years ago I saw someone fifteen years older than me do something I thought was highly unusual. In fact, I thought it was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen.

Looking back on it . . .

Twelve years ago, it seemed silly.
Nine years ago, it seemed pathetic.
Six years ago, it seemed sad.
Three years ago, it seemed clueless.
One year ago, it seemed understandable.
Six months ago, it seemed reasonable.
Three months ago, it seemed ingenious.
Two weeks ago, it seemed like I should give it a try.
One week ago, it seemed fortunate I had seen someone do this or I’d have never thought of it.

Now, I do it daily.

If anyone younger ever sees me, they’re going to think it’s the most bizarre thing they’ve ever seen.

Before you judge something good, bad, or indifferent, attempt to understand another individual’s perspective, if you can. The challenging thing is sometimes you can’t understand their perspective, at least right now.

That’s why a creative thinking lesson may take years, so be open-minded and be patient. – Mike Brown

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Here’s a career success idea that can provide returns in multiple dimensions of your career: create a “Smile File” to capture good news related your career success.

What’s a Smile File?


A smile file is a repository of successes, congratulations, comments, feedback, and other mementos of your career. Some specific items could include:

  • Thank you notes you receive
  • Outstanding job review documents
  • Final recaps on products, services, programs, processes, and other efforts you’ve managed or contributed to meaningfully
  • Emails you receive as testimonials
  • Photos of great team performance
  • Copies of materials you’ve produced that have exceeded expectations
  • Notes and kudos from co-workers

That’s simply a starting list.

Basically anything that brings to mind a career success and brings a smile to your face when you see or remember it is fair game for your smile file.

How does a smile file help your career success?

  • When updating your resume or LinkedIn profile, these items are wonderful reminders of things to include
  • If you’re having a “I’m a fraud day,” your smile file mementos will demonstrate you really aren’t a fraud.
  • They will cheer you up on bad days
  • They can help you prepare for your next job review
  • It’s tangible evidence when people question the impact of things you are addressing in your job

It’s a simple idea, but a smile file can make all the different on a bad day when it seems you’re having anything BUT career success.

Trust me . . . it works! - Mike Brown

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.


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As we mentioned recently, we’re on the lookout everywhere for strategic thinking exercises to share.

AEIB-GraphicWe spotted a recent “Inside the Executive Suite” feature from the Armada Executive Intelligence Briefing featuring a thirteen-question checklist for strategic change management. The origin for the strategic change management list was two stories in the Wall Street Journal. One story covered Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon and the other Apple CEO, Tim Cook.  Both CEOs are in the midst of trying to change what have been very successful companies over the long-term.

While issues (some major) exist for both Wal-Mart and Apple, the Inside the Executive Suite piece offered the strategic change management checklist as an example of introducing more aggressive innovation and change management when a company doesn’t exactly seem to need radical change.

A 13-Point Checklist for Strategic Change Management

If you’re contemplating (or even in the midst of) making dramatic changes within your own organization, this list is helpful as a strategic thinking exercise to make sure you’re considering the breadth and depth of changes two pretty successful companies are undertaking.

  1. Are you getting as close as possible to the customer to understand what’s working (or isn’t working) for them?
  2. Are you challenging yourself and the organization by strengthening your leadership team?
  3. Have you looked beyond your immediate organization chart to identify people with important perspectives to fuel innovation and change?
  4. Are you taking steps to invite external parties to help fuel more innovation and improved customer experiences for your brand?
  5. Are you open to matching smart competitive moves you’ve been slow to previously adopt?
  6. Are you learning from the new competitors who are beating your company in new ways?
  7. Are you pushing prototypes, trials, and pilots to dramatically increase the pace of innovation?
  8. Are you making the small internal changes necessary to pave the way for bigger, higher-profile moves?
  9. Have you been willing to go against what brought you earlier success when it might not work in the future?
  10. Is your organization investing in vital areas where competition is going to be waged now and in the future?
  11. Can you stomach making longer-term investments that are critical to growth?
  12. While advocating innovation, are you still emphasizing the fundamentals that haven’t changed?
  13. Are you willing to be a different type of leader at a different type of company?

Using this Strategic Thinking Exercise to Creating Strategic Impact

The “Inside the Executive Suite” article acknowledged that since the list was just developed, there’s no specific number of “Yes” answers to suggest your organization is definitely on the right track or not for creating strategic impact.

Instead, you can use this strategic thinking exercise as a great way to frame up your strategic change management agenda and push for appropriate innovation levels well before you’re in a “must-change now” situation. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation success.

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